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Joanna and Tim at Grand Canyon

Hoover Dam And Grand Canyon – How Tour Buses Almost Ruined Our Experience

Hoover Dam And Grand Canyon

As I sit here going through the pictures from our anniversary trip, I’m thinking to myself: That was a great road trip! We’ve been home for a couple of weeks now and I realized I haven’t written about the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon portion of our trip yet. So, here it goes…

On the way back from Vegas, we decided to take the northern route home. We wanted to check out Hover Dam (something I’ve not done in about 15 years) and the Grand Canyon (it’s been 10 years). So, we hit the road again.

Route 66

Since I’ve visited both places in the past, albeit many years ago, I had certain expectations: I knew how to get there, where to go, and what to do. Or so I thought, but both places turned out to be a surprise.

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon: First, Hoover Dam.

Since the last time I was there (pre-9-11), everything changed! First thing was that the highway now bypasses the dam. So, you actually have to get off the main drag and drive some distance to get there and back.

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon Trip

Second, there were security check points, where you stop and talk to an agent, after which they wave you through. I’m really not sure how that constitutes security…

And then, there were the tour buses. Oh my god! They were everywhere. Giant coach-style buses bringing hordes and hordes of tourists in; presumably from Vegas.

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon

What happened to the quiet, easy trip that Hoover Dam used to be?

Next shock: there is a charge for EVERYTHING!

Want to park? That will be $10 – unless you want to walk 1.5 miles in the 110 deg heat – which we did because I refused to pay for parking.

Want to go to the visitor center? $15 – really? To access a visitor center? That’s per person.

hoover dam

Want a tour of the dam? $30 – ouch!

Want a tour of the generators? That’s another $15.

Oh, and how about a slushy drink to help cool you off in that heat? That’s $6! And you can’t bring it into the visitor center.

hoover dam

Ridiculous! So, we opted to park far, walk along in the heat, and only check out the top side of the dam. There were so many people in lines from those tour buses, they even have special parking just for them. Thanks, but no thanks, not interested in paying $100+ for an hour or two just to fight with the crowds.

hoover dam

The dam itself was really cool, of course. The water level is pretty low, 150 feet below what it should be, and that’s a shame. I was really surprised to learn that it’s not Vegas that’s the main consumer of the Hoover Dam’s water, instead it’s California. LA and California farms is mainly where the water goes. WOW!

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon: On to Grand Canyon

Next, we got on the road again. This time we headed for the Grand Canyon. The drive was about what you’d expect along the desert. Dry and mostly uninteresting until we got to our lunch spot – Kingman Arizona.

Kingman AZ

Here the mountains were really cool, and we enjoyed the small but quaint town. We had a great lunch at Calico’s and, from there, we decided to take the historic Route 66. Williams was our next destination and we spent a couple of nights there, while checking out the Grand Canyon.

Route 66

After a monotonous and mostly uninteresting drive on Route 66, we finally arrived in Williams. And what a little gem of a town it was! I loved this little town. It has a small, quiet, old Americana style. We had a couple of exceptionally good meals there. I tell you what, people in Arizona sure know how to make good steaks! I don’t even know why they offer a knife, you can cut them with a fork 🙂

Williams AZ

food in Williams AZ

We stayed in a cheap motel and here was the second time, we ran into problems with tour buses. There was a tour bus of Asians tourists that lodged here as well. And oh my, were they loud! They slammed doors and ran around making noise (these were all adults in the 50+ age range) into the wee hours in the morning. And then they were up at 5:30 AM doing the same thing. Man, I wanted to kill them. I didn’t get any sleep!

Tim in Williams Az

So, we got a slow start from Williams the next morning but after a hardy breakfast (wow that’s a big cup of coffee!) we embarked on the 1.5-hour drive to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Scenery here was much different; very green, very piney, and very beautiful.

on the way to Grand Canyon

At the Grand Canyon National Park, we ran into more of those darn tour buses!

Man, this was really starting to get old.

At some of the lookouts, it was impossible to even see anything because the foreign tourists were completely flooding them and would not let anyone in while they were taking pictures. And man, they do know how to push and shove! Good lawd!

Grand Canyon Crowd

In the picture above is one of those crowded lookouts, unbelievable!

So, we said: Screw this

And, we took the shuttle bus all the way over to the other end of the rim. This was much better because the bus tourists haven’t gotten that far yet. Here we enjoyed a nice hike around the rim and took in the amazing vistas!

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon

Joanna and Grand Canyon

We even saw a couple of elks, the very rare California Condors, and some other incredibly beautiful blue birds.

Grand Canyon

Us at Grand Canyon

By the way, squirrels here are not shy! One was trying to nip at us while we were taking the selfie above 🙂

Grand Canyon

All in all, the trip back was very pretty and interesting. I’m glad we did it but in the future, we will try to do a better job avoiding all the tourists.

Tim at Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon mule path

See that path in the side of the cliff? That’s where the mule tours go. Yes, you sit on a mule and they take you all the way down to the canyon floor – no way in hell would I ever do that! I’m afraid of heights, so I consider it a success just to be able to walk up to the rim.

Our last night we spent in Flagstaff. I really love the surrounding area and the Arizona Snow Bowl, but I don’t like Flagstaff that much. It seems very busy and poorly designed for all the traffic, we always end up getting stuck in it.

Arizona Snow Bowl

I think that the northern Arizona is far prettier than the western parts. You drive right through the beautiful, green mountains here. Amazing! We didn’t stop in Sedona this time (we’ve been there many times) but the drive through that part of the state is truly beautiful.


Our very last stop before heading into Phoenix and Tucson was this tiny little place out in the middle of nowhere, called Rock Springs.

rock springs

They are famous for their pies. I discovered it one year on the way to Sedona, when a wild fire was crossing the highway and all the traffic was redirected off the highway. I just happened to end up in Rock Springs and now it’s a stop every time we’re going through that area.


YUM! And so, that was the sweet ending of the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon part of our trip.



About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. Yeah, we discovered when we went to Yellowstone in September a few years ago that when you have the schedule flexibility to pull if off, avoiding the summer months is a key. Late May, early September — most places will have good weather and the crowds won’t be nearly so crazy.

    Continuing to enjoy reading about your travels. Oh, and you’ll laugh — we had some other “ex-expat” friends from Costa Rica visiting recently in their RV. They often spend several winter months in Tucson and I was able to sound so knowledgable talking about all the great things to do in the area — all thanks to reading about *your* explorations! 😉

    • Hi Arden,
      Ha ha ha, I’m glad I could help with your Tucson knowledge. Most people don’t realize how beautiful it is and how much we have to do here. Totally agree, next time we’re heading to a major tourist attraction will be in the fall, the crowds are just too crazy right now.

  2. Fran Sandin-Loro

    Re: California and the Hoover Dam. California (Mulholland) wiped out the Owens Lake in the Owens Valley in the 1920s so Los Angeles could thrive as a metropolis. Read Cadillac Desert. When I lived in Sacramento, we enjoyed free water from our Northern California Folsom Dam/the American River. Then LA got thirsty and now everyone has a meter and pays for a diminished supply of water. Now it’s emptying Hoover Dam.

  3. Bardzo ciekawy artykuł, zdjęcia przepiękne, wróciły do mnie wspomnienia. Dziękuję Ci Joasiu za to.